Your Memory Board
"I lived in Hersden and worked at Chislet Colliery from 1954 till 1962 and served a five year mechanical apprenticeship. This was 3 years underground and the rest on the surface. My father Tom and my uncles and cousins also worked at Chislet. We were all members of the Colliery Band and I remember the friendly rivalry between us and the Betteshanger and Snowdown Bands.
I've traveled the world and lived in many of the United States but have never found anything like the camaraderie of the miners."
"My father Howell Davies transferred from the Welsh coal fields to work at Betteshanger colliery in or around 1950. (He was the Overman for many years in charge of maintaining the condition of the shafts). I, of course, had to move with my Mum and Dad and we lived in Great Mongeham.
I left school in 1954 and signed on to work at Beteshanger. My first job was on Number 2 pit bottom, hauling tubs full of coal from the seam above known as the 1900's. The train of tubs would then be split and loaded into the cage (lift) to be hauled to pit top. I had several other jobs further away from pit bottom operating conveyor belts (known as switches) and on 'haulage'.
My history finished in 1958 when I left to join the Royal Air Force."
"I took 10-15 graduate students from what was then Garnett College, London SW15 on annual trips to and down the mine. Terry Harrison hosted us and gave my students - all intending to be teachers in technical colleges - the experience of their lives. I'd need much more time and space to write properly about these visits and of my admiration for Terry."
“Laying in bed at night listening to the bulldozer on the stockpile at Betteshanger on the pile of coal as it came out of the wash area. Waiting for the school bus at Burgess Green and seeing the security van head towards the pit from Deal with a car full of heavies escorting it on pay day morning. "Chipper" the stray dog wandering around The Circle. Playing on the tip avoiding "Banachek" as we called him, the security man. Also starting up and driving an Ovenden tipper that was left there for the weekend at the age of 11 or 12. I'm late 40's now and the Transport Manager for Ovenden's, must have been my destiny! Dusting coal dust off my window sill. Josie, Herbert, John the Paperboy and his sister in the circle shop. Lots more memories I'm sure. ”
"Does anyone else remember the cable breaking in the cage at Betteshanger colliery? It must have been 1938 or 1939 while waiting for the school bus about 8.15 the colliery hooter blew which meant something serious in the mine.
Later we learnt that Mr Sedgewick Senior was going down in the cage when the cable broke. He drowned and his body not recovered for some days. His son worked for my father, Jack Richards, in the Stores Department and it was a sad day for everyone who worked at the colliery. The 6am shift, with many miners, had gone down in that same cage earlier so a more serious tragedy could have occurred. From what I remember there had been no good reason for Mr Sedgewick to have been going underground so the next full cage of miners might well have perished."
“On the last day shift at Chislet Colliery we made our work places secure then made our way to the pit bottom for the last ride to the surface. There was none of the usual happy banter that went with the end of a shift, but men in a state of bewilderment that it had all come to an end. Sure there were some who were glad to be out of a dangerous and dirty environment, but many questioned what on earth happens now......all they had ever done was win coal, like their Fathers and Grandfathers before them. All were angry and many threw their tools and work clothes into the sides of the tunnels, declaring that they would never need them again, albeit that there were teams of people on the pit top waiting to interview each miner and determine their choices of which other pit they would like to transfer to, or what help could be given in finding alternative work.
A few, including myself, remained at the pit on underground salvage work for some weeks after the closure and it was a strange place to work. None of the noise of coal production, but an eerie silence broken by the sounds of mother nature slowly closing down and re-capturing her territory after 50 years of coal extraction. Mice becoming more bold as their food in the form of discarded miner's snap declined, even a different rapport between men unburdened of the desire to save their pit from closure. So it was goodbye to Chislet and off to Betteshanger for another 4 years in the industry, to make new friends and develope the same camararderie that exists among those who work underground.
The pits and the buildings may have gone, but in those who are still around the camaraderie and respect for each other remains.......... witness the Kent Miners Gala that was started by a dedicated few in 2009, 20 years after the last pit in Kent closed, and then the re-location of the statue of The Waiting Miner to a more fitting place at Betteshanger Country Park.”
“Age 15 - my first year as a miner at Snowdown Colliery:
5.30am on a February morning walking down Burgess Road in Aylesham to catch the 'pit bus'. The snow on the ground was over the top of my shoes, the walk was approx. 300yds to the bus stop, it could have been 300 miles for all the thoughts going through my head. 'What am I doing here!' It was less than a year ago when I was at school with my mates running around the wide open spaces that surrounded the mining village of Aylesham, calling on my mates for school, doing my paper round, lighting the fire for my mum, on a Saturday morning helping Tom Gulliford the local greengrocer, that was as far as my work experience extended to. I was ill prepared for what was to come.
As I approached the bus stop, I could see this small figure of a man standing underneath the beam of light from the lamp post, the snow was coming down heavy. As I approached the man - I recognised him as 'Albert Pugh' a friend of my dad - 'morning Mr Pugh, cold morning'. There was a short delay in his reply. What I had not realised - Albert was drawing huge amounts of breath before he could speak - he like many miners was suffering from Silicosis (coal miners lung disease). I was aware of this lung disease because my father suffered from it as did many miners that lived in Aylesham, living in a mining community you were made aware watching men walk twenty yards and having to stop for breath. I don't know if it is true or not, but silicosis was more prevalent in the Welsh coalfields than any other.
'Do you think the bus will get through this snow Albert?!' I asked. Before I could finish the sentence two yellow headlights came over the railway bridge. My heart dropped to my knees 'another day in hell' I thought.
My first job working underground at Snowdown was at the pit bottom of number three shaft, where the cold air was drawn into the pit and in winter you could hear the ice whistling down the shaft. It was freezing, I loathed every minute of my early years as a miner.
I was later told by my father that Albert was a man that had lived through some hard times before making the long journey to Kent. I often think back to that morning in February 1955 when two generations of the mining fraternity came together for the first time, and I was introduced to Albert Pugh one of my many mentors I came across in the mining industry. ”
“As a child I can remember my Grandfather taking me on miner's fishing club outings, by coach, on Sundays. These were always great fun. I can remember the diversity of accents, Yorkshire was probably most common but there were Scottish miners, Nottingham, and of course Kent.
I remember the injuries he suffered, the blue scars, and half of his thumb missing after a rock crashed down on it. His miner's cough, caused by pneumoconiosis. Spitting on the fire! (they all seemed to do that) Miners worked underground all day, so when they had time off they liked to be outdoors. Like other miners his garden was a mixture of veg for the kitchen and flowers for the sheer joy of their colours and smells.
Being at home with Gran was lovely, as she did pretty much what traditional miners wives did back then, preparing Grandad's "snap" - which was things like home baked pasties, pies etc. It was a window on another world, really, when staying at home was really hard work, she always seemed to be either cleaning, cooking, or shuffling off down to the butchers, or the other shops, into town on the bus from the top of Mill Hill. I do remember that because of Grandad's lung condition, he was moved topside and worked in the battery house, where miner's lamp batteries were handed in to be re-charged. Being away from the dust probably prolonged his life. He lived to be 93; many of his former colleagues had died 20 years earlier.
I can also remember playing on the coal tip, it was forbidden but it was a huge magnet for young adventurous lads. Now, I gather it is covered in woodland but back then it was like an alien landscape. Lots of grey shale, and some saplings starting to sprout. One part of the tip had begun to combust, and there was a sign saying WARNING BURNING TIP! Instead of a deterrent, this only encouraged us to explore further, and there were indeed little areas where sulphurous gasses and smoke broke through the surface. Looking back, it was probably a dangerous place, but to us it was fun. There was an area to the left/ rear of the tip which was waterlogged. A pond, surrounded by reeds. We used to build "rafts" out of old bits of wood salvaged from the tip. I can remember the whirring calls of reed buntings and warblers. I also have a vague memory of some sort of long wooden aqueduct type thing which brought water from the pit to the marshes, though I can't be sure of this. I do remember the nearby "pump house" as we called it, which must have been there for drainage purposes, was at certain times of the year crawling with elvers - baby eels - and I also remember a colony of long eared owls roosting in woodland just behind the tip.
I also, as a schoolboy, went down one of the mines (I think it was Betteshanger but might have been Tilmanstone) as part of a tour, and couldn't believe the conditions. Hot, really humid and sweaty, and the coal seams were really low at the pit face, so lots of back-ache from stooping! Of course by then machinery did a lot of the rough work but I can remember Grandad telling me about wooden pit props and pit ponies in mines he had worked in, and not for the first time my admiration for the hard, dangerous work that miners did soared. ”
"I had a boyfriend in Deal but came from Hastings. During the Miners Strike some miners came to Hastings and spoke to me and some other people in the town. After that we used to collect food outside Sainsbury's every week because we felt upset that the miners and their families were struggling to survive because they had no income. I supported the miners and when they were forced back to work marching behind their banners I cried, as I knew it was the beginning of the end for all those tight-knit communities and for a whole way of life."
"I was on holiday and a man in the hotel where we were staying was going on about 'Soft Southerners'. My husband spoke up. My wife is a soft southerner, born in Deal and she has been down Betteshanger Colliery. Working on the switchboard in the early 1950s I asked to go down on a visit. Can you imagine Health and Safety allowing that now! I was supplied with white overalls.The helmet I was given I lost overboard when my head went back as we travelled down in the Cage. I greeted the man at Pit Bottom who I had only spoken to on the phone. On a truckon railway lines we travelled deeper into the mine to where men were working. I was shown what rippers and hauliers did and also shown a seam that was only 18 inches high where other men were working. I was taught to listen to the pit props - the sounds they made were important. Shown how Snap was hung where it could not be reached by rats. I came away from that visit with a clear idea how Black Diamonds were obtained and with respect for those who obtained them and with relief to be in air and light again."
"I was one of the deputy mechanical engineers under Tim Daniels and Ian Hughes. (1979 to 1984 ish). Had some great work mates who supported me in my early management years, still friends today I am pleased to say. My area was the west side, Four headings, Four coal faces and training face (easier than Terry's 'half' one face and the terrible becorit loco's). I had served my time as labourer, mechanical apprentice, coal face fitter at Tilmanstone colliery.
Later I went to the midlands, Cadley Hill and Asfordby new mine that Ii worked on from grass land to production. Followed by working for RJB mining with responsibility for all equipment, reliability and maintenance."
"Big wrench to get up at 4.30am to catch the bus at 4.45am. I was used to walking down to the Colliery, a 10 minute walk, but now with Chislet Colliery closing I had to travel 20 miles in a ramshackle bus with water pipes running around the bus for heating. After picking us up we called around the estates in Canterbury. Most men were asleep by the time we got out onto the Dover road.
Arriving at Tilmanstone, a rush to the canteen to grab a cup of tea or a shilling screw of tobacco for the shift. At the end of the shift, after the bath house, into the canteen for a bottle of wonderful cold milk - wouldn’t swap it for a pint of ale at this stage - then settle down on the bus for the winding road up through Shepherdswell onto the Dover road and head for Canterbury. By this time most of the men would be asleep and have to be shaken awake at their destination."
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